Bledisloe Cup 2020: Rieko Ioane completes midfield transition with first-test start

Rieko Ioane's selection at centre for the All Blacks' first Bledisloe Cup test on Sunday completes a transformation that the former wing has had in his sights since last season.

Playing in the All Blacks' midfield has always been a dream for Ioane and his stellar form for the Blues this season has seen him rewarded with a start there this weekend. 

"I had ambition prior to making the All Blacks that I wanted to play 13," Ioane says. 

The biggest development in Ioane’s game has been defensively, where he's dealt with the added responsibility of a shift infield in impressive fashion.  

"The challenges come defensively, the attacking side and distributing comes naturally enough to me," he says. 

"It is something that has grown over the years and every now and then you chop-and-change into the 13 spot and you pick up more and more."

An integral part of playing at centre is the combination with your partner at second-five, which is something Ioane and Jack Goodhue have been working on developing at training through the week.

"The relationship is definitely new but we have all trained together a lot over the last three-four weeks," the Blues midfielder says. 

"It is building nicely, so hopefully it's the goods come Sunday."

Although he was named in last year's Rugby World Cup squad, Ioane was pushed to the outer, with the national selectors favouring George Bridge and Sevu Reece on the wings.

Over the past 12 months, Ioane has been vocal about wanting to play in the midfield and was eventually granted a full season in No.13 for the Blues, where he took the opportunity with both hands.

"It's something you definitely talk about with the coaches," Ioane says. 

"At the start of the season [Ian Foster] and I talked and he didn't know how I would do."

Bledisloe Cup 2020: Rieko Ioane completes midfield transition with first-test start
Photo credit: Getty/Newshub

Initially, Foster wasn't convinced with Ioane's move to the midfield but has been won over by the 23-year-old's impressive form during Super Rugby Aotearoa.

"I’m excited by it, but let’s be frank I’ve always said he is a wing that can play centre but we didn’t know how quick it was going to be, and he has done well," Foster says. 

"He has worked really well throughout the Blues campaign, he's been committed to it and has put forward such a compelling case that it has changed our mind."

Join us for live updates of the first Bledisloe Cup opener from Sunday 4pm